The Grand Tour: Fife and Beyond

Ramblings of an inveterate cyclist

Friday the 22nd of August 1952, was a glorious sun-kissed morning, the huge crowd, numbering in there thousands had been gathering from daybreak along the seafront of Hastings, exited to see off the seventy-eight riders on their one thousand, four hundred, and seventy miles, Second Tour of Britain, sponsored by The Daily Express. The cyclists waited nervously on the start line. The cheers rose to a crescendo as the colourful peloton moved off on the de-neutralization stage.

Four miles out a flag dropped ending the de-neutralization zone and the start of the race proper. The tempo of the peloton quickly changed, the mass of colourful cyclist were now accelerating through the English countryside, at speed in excess of thirty-six miles per hour, as early breakaways were chased down and brought back into the group.

Fourteen miles out Johnny Blackstone, made a daring escape off the front, he was quickly followed by eight other riders. Working now as a team they forced the pace and what a pace, not even the riders themselves believed this truly killing speed could be maintained, but sustained it was.

At the prime point, the summit of Patcham Hill, Bob Maitland, riding with the BSA team broke cover and sprinted to the summit for the win.

At thirty miles from home, eight others joined up with the remaining breakaway group, who were still out in front. All now worked hard and so managed to stay clear of the main peloton, for the remainder of the stage.

The crowd that had gathered awaiting their arrival, cheered as fourteen leaders screamed into Southsea’s Serpentine Road. The accolade was bestowed upon the shoulders of an amateur rider, the Londoner, Johnny Blackstone. Johnny had pipping Ken Russell (Ellis-Briggs) by the width of his tyre over the line. The time was four hours, twelve minutes, and twenty-seven seconds. What a race this was turning into.

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